The act of April 8th, 1903, Pamph. L. p. 513, authorizes the governing body of any city to regulate the size, height, location, position, and material of all fences, signs, billboards, and advertisements. The statute does not limit the power of the municipal authorities to cases where the structures may be in a condition dangerous to the public safety, and the first section of the ordinance absolutely prohibits signs and billboards within ten feet of the street line.
Plaintiff in error advertising company was convicted of violating the city's ordinance, which regulated signs and billboards and provided that no sign could be more than eight feet high or less than 10 feet from the street line. The lower appellate court upheld the trial court's ruling that the ordinance was valid. On further appeal, the court reversed and ordered that a judgment be entered reversing the conviction.
Was the contested ordinance a valid exercise of police power?
The court held the effect of the ordinance was to deprive the landowner of the ordinary use of the land for a lawful purpose. The court held the regulation was not reasonably necessary for the public safety and stated the enactment of the ordinance was due to aesthetic considerations. The court further stated that the effect of the ordinance was to take private property without compensation and could not be justified as an exercise of police power.